Galerella pulverulentaCape gray mongoose

Geographic Range

Cape grey mongooses are endemic to southern Africa, ranging throughout the Cape provinces of South Africa, north into southern Namibia, and east to Lesotho and the Drakensberg range of western KwaZulu-Natal into Mpumalanga. (Bronner, 1990; Cavallini, 1992; Cavallini, 2013; Hoffmann, 2008)


Cape grey mongooses tolerate a wide variety of habitats, ranging from open country to semi-arid scrub forest to wet forest. They occur from sea level around the Cape provinces to an elevation of 1,900 m in KwaZulu-Natal. Cape grey mongooses frequent areas with dense bushes, rocky outcrops, and grass-covered boulders. They avoid areas with short vegetation. They are even abundant close to human settlements and are commonly seen on roadsides and under human structures. (Cavallini and Nel, 1990a; Cavallini, 1992; Cavallini, 2013; Hoffmann, 2008)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1,900 m
    0.00 to ft

Physical Description

Cape grey mongooses are small mongooses with long, slender bodies, long, bushy tails, and short legs. They weigh 490 to 1250 g, have a head and body length of 296 to 425 mm, and a tail length of 205 to 340 mm. Their long heads have pointed muzzles and small, rounded ears 15 to 36 mm long. Five digits are present on each foot, with the first digit reduced. Their claws are not well developed. Cape grey mongooses are speckled or grizzled gray in color, with legs and feet becoming darker distally. here is sexual dimorphism in body and skull size, with males being 1.24 times heavier than females.

There are three recognized subspecies of Galerella pulverulenta: G. p. pulverulenta, G. p. basuticus, and G. p. ruddi. Galerella pulverulenta basuticus is similar in appearance, but slightly paler in color due to its woolly underfur. Galerella pulverulenta ruddi has yellowish hairs with a darker underfur, making it appear brownish in color. The distal part of its tail is black. (Cavallini, 1992; Hamerton, 2000)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    490 to 1250 g
    17.27 to 44.05 oz
  • Range length
    296 to 425 mm
    11.65 to 16.73 in


Little information is known about mating systems in Cape grey mongooses. However, in other species of Galerella, males and females typically associate only for mating and males will seek opportunities to mate with multiple females.

Little information is known about reproduction in Cape grey mongooses. Pregnant females have been observed in August, September, and October, and lactating females have been observed in August, November, December, January, and February. The breeding season occurs at the end of the rainy season (from August to December). Various sites, such as rock crevices, hollow trees, and abandoned dens are used for breeding and rearing young. The maximum mass of a fetus is 20.2 g. Litters of 1 to 3 young are born fully furred with their eyes and ears closed. The young remain in the breeding dens until they are fully weaned. (Cavallini and Nel, 1990a; Cavallini, 1992; Hamerton, 2000; Stuart, 1981)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals of Cape grey mongooses have not been reported.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season is documented from August to December.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3

There is little information available on parental investment in Cape grey mongooses. However, only females care for young in other Galerella species.

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


There is little information available on longevity of Cape grey mongooses. Lifespan in the wild is believed to be 8 to 9 years. In the London zoo, one Cape grey mongoose lived for 8 years 8.5 months. Another individual lived for 11.7 years in captivity. (Cavallini, 1992; Hamerton, 2000; Shortridge, 1934; Weigl, 2005)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    11.7 (high) years


Cape grey mongooses are diurnal, active shortly after sunrise until around sunset, occasionally resting around midday. They are generally solitary, although males do exhibit occasional sociality. Foraging behaviors include moving quickly between potential feeding sites (such as bushes), scratching the soil in search of prey under the surface, and throwing eggs backwards with the forefeet between the hind legs against a hard surface in order to crack them. They are terrestrial, but also able to climb trees. Fecal droppings are found singly or in small groups, typically close to sleeping sites. They do not use dens outside of the breeding season. (Cavallini and Nel, 1990a; Cavallini and Nel, 1995; Cavallini, 1992; Ewer, 1973; Smithers, 1983)

Home Range

Summer home ranges of Cape grey mongooses span from 0.21 to 0.63 square km. Ranges of females are smaller than those of males. Home ranges overlap greatly, both between and within sexes. (Cavallini, 1992; Hamerton, 2000)

Communication and Perception

There is little information available on communication and perception in Cape grey mongooses. Sight and smell are important for foraging. Cape grey mongooses are known to sniff often when searching for food. (Stuart, 1981)

Food Habits

Cape grey mongooses are predominantly carnivorous, with small mammals, especially small to middle-sized rodents, being their primary prey. The rodents Myotomys unisulcatus and Rhabdomys pumilio comprise the majority (>90%) of their diet in the West Coast National Park. Insects (especially coleopterans and isopterans) are a secondary resource, constituting less than 5% of the diet. However, Cape grey mongooses are opportunistic hunters, and will prey on birds (mostly passerines), reptiles, amphibians, eggs (mostly reptilian), arachnids, decapods, and mollusks, if accessible. They will also consume carrion and refuse when available. (Cavallini and Nel, 1990b; Cavallini and Nel, 1995; Cavallini, 1992)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans


There is little available information on predation of Cape grey mongooses. Predators may include larger predatory mammals, raptors, and snakes. In a 1980 study that surveyed nine martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) nests, Cape grey mongooses comprised 0 to 25% (average 7.4%) of the prey collected. Anti-predator adaptations in this species are not well-known. When approached by humans in the West Coast National Park, Cape grey mongooses scurry into nearby thick bushes to seek shelter. They may also climb trees when threatened. In addition, their coat color blends well with the dominant color of their habitat, allowing them to move about discreetly. (Boshoff and Palmer, 1980; Cavallini, 1992; Hamerton, 2000)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Cape grey mongooses are used as a host by various arthropod parasites, including Echidnophaga gallinacea, Ctenocephalides connatus, Ctenocephalides felis, Procaviopsylla angolensis, and nymphs of Ixodes pilosus. In a 1990 study, scabies and ticks of unknown species were present on two of eight trapped Cape grey mongooses. (Cavallini and Nel, 1990a; Cavallini, 1992; Haeselbarth, et al., 1966)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cape grey mongooses help reduce rodent pest populations by removing a small proportion (less than 10%) of total rodent production. (Cavallini, 1992)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Cape grey mongooses are well-adapted to urbanization. They are frequently seen crossing roads, scavenging road kills and house garbage, and taking refuge under human structures, thus bringing them into conflict with humans. They are also known to take eggs and poultry when available. (Hamerton, 2000; Hoffmann, 2008)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Cape grey mongooses are considered a species of Least Concern, as they are common throughout their range (densities reach up to 10 individuals per square km) and highly adaptable. They have a stable population with no major threats, and are present in a number of protected areas, such as the West Coast and Mountain Zebra National Parks. (Cavallini and Nel, 1990a; Cavallini, 1992; Hoffmann, 2008)

Other Comments

Galerella pulverulenta is also known as Herpestes pulverulentus in the literature. (Cavallini, 1992; Wagner, 1839)


Sarah Gibbons (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Shaina Stewart (editor), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


flesh of dead animals.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Boshoff, A., N. Palmer. 1980. Macro-analysis of prey remains from martial eagle nests in the Cape Province. Ostrich, 57: 7-13.

Bronner, G. 1990. New distribution records for four mammal species, with notes on their taxonomy and ecology. Koedoe, 33: 1-7.

Cavallini, P. 2013. Herpestes pulverulentus. Pp. 311-314 in J Kingdon, M Hoffmann, eds. Mammals of Africa, Vol. Volume V. Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids and Rhinoceroses, 1 Edition. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Cavallini, P., J. Nel. 1995. Comparative behaviour and ecology of two sympatric mongoose (Cynictis penicillata and Galerella pulverulenta. South African Journal of Zoology, 30(2): 46-49.

Cavallini, P., J. Nel. 1990. Ranging behaviour of the Cape grey mongoose Galerella pulverulenta in a coastal area. Journal of Zoology (London), 222: 353-362.

Cavallini, P., J. Nel. 1990. The feeding ecology of the Cape grey mongoose Galerella pulverulenta (Wagner, 1839) in a coastal area. African Journal of Ecology, 28(2): 123-130.

Cavallini, P. 1992. Herpestes pulverulentus. Mammalian Species, 409: 1-4.

Ewer, R. 1973. The carnivores. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Haeselbarth, E., J. Segerman, F. Zumpt. 1966. The arthropods parasites of vertebrates in Africa south of the Sahara (Ethiopian region) Vol. III (Insecta excl. Phiniaptera). Publications of the South African Institute of Medical Research, 13: 1-283.

Hamerton, D. 2000. "Galerella pulverulenta (Cape grey mongoose, Small grey mongoose)" (On-line). Biodiversity Explorer. Accessed August 13, 2013 at

Hoffmann, M. 2008. "Herpestes pulverulentus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed August 13, 2013 at

Shortridge, G. 1934. The mammals of South West Africa, Volume 1. London: William Heinemann.

Smithers, R. 1983. The mammals of the southern African subregion. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.

Stuart, C. 1981. Notes on the mammalian carnivores of the Cape Province, South Africa. Bontebok, 1: 1-58.

Wagner, U. 1839. Ueber die verwandschafts-verhaltnisse der pharaonsratte. Gelehrte Anzeigen der Koniglichen Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 9: 425-429.

Weigl, R. 2005. Longevity of mammals in captivity; from the living collections of the world. Stuttgart: Kleine Senckenberg-Reihe.